Natalie Tunstall-Jackman

Natalie Tunstall-Jackman

Newly Qualified Solicitor

DWF Group Plc

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I applied for the DWF vacation scheme in January 2017, and after successfully completing an assessment centre, I was accepted. Upon completion of the vacation scheme, I was offered a two-year training contract which commenced in September 2019. I applied to DWF because I felt that the values of the firm really aligned with my own values and experiences. I was drawn to the firm's diversity and the fact that there are so many women in senior roles. A bonus was the fact that it is a global business with a strong presence in my home town Manchester.

Trainee solicitors undertake a structured programme which requires us to complete four six-month rotations in different departments (or 'seats') so that we get a variety of experience. So far, I have had experience in catastrophic personal injury litigation and real estate litigation. In these seats typical activities for a trainee include legal research, drafting court documents, instructing Barristers and expert witnesses, interviewing witnesses and drafting witness statements. I have also attended two hearings (a trial in person and a skype hearing) and a settlement meeting which has been a highlight of the training contract so far. I enjoy the opportunity to try different practice areas. Each team I have worked with are always willing to give you exposure to as much work as possible as they want to provide you with a good understanding of what it takes to be a specialised solicitor.

For me, I think the biggest challenge has been learning to adapt my approach when communicating with individuals who do not have background knowledge of the legal process– for example, dealing with challenging witnesses. My team have given me good advice, and as the saying goes, practice makes perfect.

In terms of training, DWF sponsored my Legal Practice Course and whilst on the job, I have attended several training sessions about key topics in the department. We also have done specific training in relation to life as a trainee (such as mandatory solicitors training but also sessions to help us to deal with things like time management and preventing stress at work).

I like working for DWF as the people are really friendly, approachable and willing to help you. In my experience, there hasn't been a hierarchical feel to each team, and you can get exposure to partners as much as any other team member. It is a really social business, and once a month we have Friday Fridge, which is an opportunity for everyone to have drinks and socialise. There is a huge focus on getting involved in CSR activities which I have enjoyed – for example, before lockdown, I was regularly participating in a school reading programme on Friday mornings. Given the size of the business, it is expected that we work on high value and high profile cases, therefore, the other added benefits such as the culture and values is what makes DWF really stand out.

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